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|Title:||Perception and Responsibility in The Ambassadors|
|Keywords:||English;English Language and Literature;English Language and Literature|
|Abstract:||<p>In The Ambassadors Henry James proposes an equation between perception and experience. The novel tells the story of one man, Lambert Strether, as he perceives a world more complex than he had previously known. Strether comes from the New England society of fixed and absolute values to Paris where ethics are based on aesthetics, and relativity and variety are accepted and appreciated. Strether's appreciation of Parisian life changes his "terms of thought" and allows him to reconsider his past life from a new perspective.</p> <p>Several conditions predetermine Strether's new perceptions. The scenic details of place -- especially his attention to rooms -- act as a framing device, predisposing him to certain attitudes towards the inhabitants and activities within these frames. Strether's expectations based on romantic fiction provide him with preconceived models of life. His consciousness of his dual role, using theatrical terms, as actor and auditor, affects his view both of others and of himself.</p> <p>Coming from Woollett, Massachusetts, Lambert Strether is bewildered by life in Paris. The strict code of Woollett has not prepared him with viable terms to describe his perceptions. The bewildering relativity of Paris is most keenly felt in his observations of the intricacy of personal relationships, the ambiguity of language, and the seeming fluctuation in people's ages. Strether is educated to an appreciation of all these examples of relativity and to a recognition of their relevance to his own life.</p> <p>The apprehension of truth itself appears to be a matter of relativity in Paris. Strether's dilemma is in evaluating contradictory facts: the definite facts of Woollett and the suggestive facts of Paris. However, Strether's evaluation is comprehensive and individual; he can rely neither upon Woollett's absolutism nor upon the easier acceptance of Paris. He finally realizes that an appreciation of beauty and variety is not of itself enough. He must act on his personal knowledge and with a moral judgment based upon that knowledge. His final decision. to return to Woollett is the testimony of his responsibility to his own perceptions.</p>|
|Appears in Collections:||Open Access Dissertations and Theses|
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